History beckons Indian girls
BHUBANESWAR: “Yes, we’ll try to get enough rest tonight (Monday) so that we can give our best tomorrow (Tuesday),” said India captain Astam Oraon when asked if she would be able to sleep on Monday as the U-17 women’s team stood on the cusp of history.
On Tuesday, the hosts will script a new chapter in Indian women’s football when they take on the US in their first match of the twice-postponed FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup here at Kalinga Stadium.

Placed in Group A – the only group with each team representing a different continent – the Astam-led side is aware of the task at hand. But coach Thomas Dennerby, who has been at the helm since 2019 and has witnessed the core group change due to the deferment of the event, feels the current squad is ready for the challenge.
“Our preparations started in late February and barring a short break for the girls’ exams, we have had several and varied training sessions and technical meetings. They have developed a lot through all of these,” Dennerby said at the press conference on Monday. “On our last trip to Spain, we played Sweden in an equally-poised game. Now, if we can match Sweden, we can match anyone on a given day.”

On Tuesday, the U-17 girls will have the advantage of home support, which can also be construed as ‘pressure’ by the young footballers on the verge of representing the aspiration of a billion-strong nation. Their captain, however, does not consider that a problem. “Mentally, we are very strong today. We are staying positive and not thinking of anything but the opener,” said the defender hailing from a nondescript village in Jharkhand‘s Gumla district.
All she wanted was for the people to come and see them play. “I would urge everyone to come and support us during the matches. We want to show everyone that girls in this country can also make them proud.”

Their rivals are a formidable force in women’s football. Their senior team is somewhat synonymous with the women’s game. However, their U17 teams have not been able to replicate the glory of the seniors. They did, however, come extremely close in 2008, when they lost in extra time to Korea DPR in the final of the inaugural edition. Yet, they have not made it to the knockouts since then.
But US coach Natalia Astrain feels it’s only a matter of time before that changes. “We are here to change that history. Some years ago, the federation started making some changes that have been good for the team and our style of play. We believe that we can put up an improved show this time,” the Spaniard said at the press conference on Monday.

Dennerby agrees that on paper India will be the underdogs. But if they are lucky or grasp an early breakthrough, it could be anyone’s game. And a good show from India could be a remarkable achievement not just for the team but also for the coach.
“But if we do make the quarterfinals, I would rate it as an achievement equal to guiding Sweden to third place in 2011 Women’s World Cup,” the Swede acknowledged.

While a billion hopes will accompany the team, it’s time for the much-delayed tournament to finally kick off on Indian soil. Over to the girls!


Source link

By Dipak

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *